All 2,250 patients with learning disabilities and autism who are inpatients in a mental health hospital will have their care reviewed over the next 12 months.
Before parliament was dissolved yesterday (Wednesday 6 November), the previous government said it was committed to provide each patient with a date for discharge, or where this was not appropriate, a clear explanation of why and a plan to move them towards being ready for discharge into the community.
For those in long-term segregation, an independent panel, chaired by Baroness Sheila Hollins, will be established to oversee the case reviews to drive improvements in their care and support them to be discharged back to the community as quickly as possible.
The panel will monitor, challenge and advice on the progress of case reviews.
Data on inpatients in mental health settings who have a learning disability or are autistic will also be published.
Baroness Sheila Hollins said: ‘I don’t think it can ever be right to segregate someone as a form of care, and even more so when there is no planned end date.
‘The oversight panel will actively review progress of an action learning project designed to identify existing barriers, and implement solutions that will transform people’s lives. Our focus will be on each person’s humanity, and entitlement to live an ordinary and safe life in a place where their own concerns and needs will be understood and met by supporters who treat them with respect and have the right skills and supervision.’
It was also announced that every NHS and social care worker will receive mandatory training relevant to their role, as part of new measures.
The training will focus on understanding learning disability; understanding autism; legislation and rights; and making reasonable adjustments such as using different communication methods for autistic people with sensory sensitivities.
Paula McGowan, whose 18-year-old son Oliver died in hospital due to a rare reaction to anti-psychotic medication, has been campaigning on the issue.
She said: ‘We have never had mandatory training like this before and I believe that this is a very important first step in addressing the inequalities of health care and premature deaths in people who have autism and learning disabilities.’
The training will be named in memory of Oliver McGowan.
Oonagh Smyth, executive director at learning disability charity Mencap, said: ‘As we approach the anniversary of Oliver McGowan’s death on Armistice Day, it is fitting that this training be named in honour of him and his family who have fought so hard for answers about his death and continue to campaign for wider change to prevent avoidable deaths of people with a learning disability and autism.’